Traci Bermiss
“Being able to connect
what I do professionally to
the individuals in the
community is an awesome,
fulfilling experience,”
says Traci Bermiss.

Traci Bermiss
“Being able to connect
what I do professionally to
the individuals in the
community is an awesome,
fulfilling experience,”
says Traci Bermiss.

Part four in a series. “Voices of IBM Volunteers” is part of the SkillsBuild program to reach one million young people through STEM-related volunteering in 2018, and five million young people over the next five years. Watch the video (YouTube, 04:20)

The drive to close the global skills gap is among IBM’s most important initiatives. SkillsBuild will call on IBM volunteers to promote activities that enable digital literacy with young people, introduce them to hands-on problem solving, and spark their interest in STEM learning—using resources and support on the IBM Volunteers web site.


IBM volunteer: Traci Bermiss

IBM Volunteers empowers me to feel like I can make a difference in the community.

It’s not just me all by myself out there. I have three huge initials that are behind me: IBM. I have a team. I have a workforce. We have resources that otherwise I would not have as an individual, so our impact is much greater than you ever expect when you approach an organization.

I volunteer because I have a passion about the community and being able to connect what I do professionally to the individuals in the community is an awesome, fulfilling experience.

One of the best things about IBM Volunteers is the opportunity I have had to secure grants to promote the missions of organizations I support in the community.

For example, with one of the IBM Community Grants (login required) I received we created a “design thinking” summer camp for middle school students. In partnership with IBM Design, the Urban League, and two middle schools, we were able to demonstrate how design thinking, a problem solving process used by IBM that puts end users first and encourages teamwork and collaboration, can be used to improve student performance and change their school community.

IBM design thinking helps people challenge their traditional thought processes. It makes them think of innovative ways to solve any kind of problem. For example, if someone’s designing software, or a developer is designing a web page or an app, design thinking allows them to make sure that the design treatments they’re applying are user friendly.

At the design thinking camp that we hosted, the students came in with a number of challenges to put design thinking to the test. They needed a better way to learn how to study. With multiple classes a day, many of them did not know how to prioritize.

Some of the school principals and other leaders also had questions. With students across the spectrum – some who are advanced and some who are struggling to learn – they wondered how to help them all feel comfortable and open to speak.

We engaged both the students and the educators in design thinking exercises that led them to solutions. The students felt fulfilled that they were contributing to their school community in a way that they hadn’t before, and they were empowered to contribute more.

Another IBM Community Grant that I received was for the Jack and Jill of America, Inc. Foundation. With that program, we conducted leadership training for 18 young men who are either freshmen in college or seniors in high school. Through a series of professional workshops run by volunteers with different jobs and skills, we taught the group managerial and project management skills. We even discussed the importance of ethics in leadership.

The cybersecurity IBM activity kit teaches students how to be safe when they’re online, when they’re interacting with friends or “pretenders.” It is necessary education, and an activity in which I directly shared my professional expertise to help others. We stressed how to make sure passwords are safe and secure, and how to be smart and safe with social media.

In addition to the satisfaction of helping these young people, I have gained a lot from my IBM Volunteers experiences. Working with colleagues across different functional areas, I have learned more about IBM and the impact we are having around the world.

IBM Volunteers has not only given me the opportunity to connect with different people, it’s enabled me to apply design thinking beyond my every day job as a worldwide marketing manager.


For over 100 years, IBMers have created positive change in the world through their day-to-day work and their service in local communities. Since 2004, nearly 300,000 IBM employees and retirees have contributed more than 20 million hours of volunteer service.


About these stories

Read about IBMers whose volunteer efforts are improving communities around the world.


Activity Kits

IBM’s volunteer Activity Kits include everything you need for a range of activities.